Rescuing the Yen
Amid the ongoing crisis in Japan, the country’s currency just keeps getting stronger—in this case a bad thing since it could badly hurt Japanese exports. And that’s not something Tokyo, a major holder of U.S. debt, needs as it struggles to recover. So the G7 is taking action. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke were both on an emergency call yesterday to discuss the situation. And in a statement, the group announced that the US, UK, Canada and the European Central Bank would intervene in currency markets today while expressing confidence in the Japanese economy. “As we have long stated, excess volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates have adverse implications for economic and financial stability,” the statement said.
Washington currently has around 17,000 members of the military helping with the relief effort in Japan in addition to a newly deployed, small team of hazardous-material experts. And yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates authorized $35 million in aid. At home, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano assured the public that passengers and cargo arriving in the US from Japan are being thoroughly checked for radiation and so far, so good. President Obama has ordered a review of U.S. nuclear power plant safety.
Meanwhile, Obama is preparing to leave for a previously scheduled trip to little-visited Latin America—Brazil, Chile and El Salvador—aimed at economic and regional-security issues. And all of this is playing out as the international community gets ready to launch military action against Libya following a UN Security Council vote giving the OK to a no-fly zone and any measures necessary to protect civilians. Colonel Qaddafi has declared an immediate ceasefire.
The president is also facing some tough Afghanistan decisions in the coming months. In addition to troop withdrawals, there is the question of what to do with General David Petraeus, currently in charge of forces there. Namely, whether to make him the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The current chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, will leave the post at the end of September and Petraeus is apparently in the running to replace him—along with the current vice chairman, General James Cartwright, SACEUR James Stavridis and the head of the Joint Forces Command, General Ray Odierno.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments on Wednesday that she isn’t interested in any other government job, or even in staying on for a second semester as secretary of state, made waves, but according to some reports, people shouldn’t be surprised. Everyone in the administration is getting a bit tired of the ongoing crises it would seem.